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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Pledge to save the Sundarbans
Map of Sundarbans
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By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Delegates attending a conference in Bangladesh to preserve the world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, have reached an agreement to work closer together.

We feel that such an eco-system can be conserved only through a joint effort

AK Raha, Indian delegate

Bangladeshi and Indian officials at the meeting passed what they called a vision statement, in which they agreed jointly to protect the ecology of an area of outstanding natural beauty.

UN officials presiding over this meeting have termed this a significant milestone.

The Sundarbans forest spans both countries and is the main habitat of a wide range of wildlife, including the Royal Bengal tiger.

Joint initiative

The two countries agreed that the threat to the Sundarbans and its unique plant and wildlife required more cross-border co-operation.

An Indian delegate attending the meeting, AK Raha, said Delhi and Dhaka have now pledged to meet again later this month in Calcutta to finalise an agreement which will provide significant protection for the forest.

Royal Bengal tiger
Royal Bengal tigers are dying off

"We feel that such an eco-system can be conserved only through a joint effort," he said.

"Otherwise what happens? An initiative in one country may have an adverse effect on the Sundarbans of the other side."

"This project has helped us come together and to think of managing it as a single eco-system, if not fully then at least on a partial level," Mr Raha said.

The steps towards closer co-operation in looking after the Sundarbans will be welcomed by scientists, who for a long time have urged India and Bangladesh to work together to protect the forest from pollution and human encroachment.

The Bangladeshi Government has also warned that the environmental threat is becoming increasingly grave and that the two countries must work harder than ever to ensure that its unique eco-system is preserved for future generations.

It is hoped that Dhaka and Delhi will, in the meeting later this month, agree to share detailed information on the Sundarbans and establish bilateral conservation initiatives.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Business
India and Bangladesh talk trade
03 Apr 02 | South Asia
Tigers kill 22 in Bangladesh
17 Dec 01 | South Asia
New hope for Bengal tigers
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